After two weeks of promises, politics and protests, COP26 finished with a marathon of negotiations to finalise the text of the Glasgow Climate Pact – which has now been signed by nearly 200 countries. But what does the outcome of COP26 mean for the built environment, and how do we align our engineering with the direction of travel that the pact sets out?
There are two primary aspects to the pact: adaptation (taking measures to deal with the effects of global warming), and mitigation (reducing GHG emissions to reduce global warming), with urgent action being called for on both. Both have direct impact on the built environment.
The pact is clear that in order to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, we must target 1.5°C rather than 2.0°C. It’s stated that this will require “rapid, deep and sustained” reductions in emissions and “accelerated action in this critical decade”, requiring a 45% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 and achieving net zero by mid-century. Clearly, our work must continue at pace in developing lower-carbon approaches to design and construction.
In order to adapt to the changing climate at the same time, enhanced global ambition and action is called for, with developed countries1 being required to “urgently and significantly scale up their provision of climate finance, technology transfer and capacity-building for adaptation so as to respond to the needs of developing [countries] as part of a global effort”.
Global cooperation and accelerated action are already aligned with the Institution’s work in recent years to increase focus on sustainability across our membership, but the message from COP26 is loud and clear – we must raise our levels of ambition and commitment further still.